The survey – Brexit transition: Thoughts of an SME nation – found small businesses were unprepared for the end of the Brexit transition period, despite four years having passed since the referendum and £8.1bn of Government spending to help businesses get ready.
Only 11% of respondents felt ‘very well prepared’ for the new regime, 23% said they were somewhat unprepared and 17% said they were not at all prepared for the end of the transition period.
More than half (55%) of SMEs surveyed said Brexit had taken time away from other business priorities, an unwanted distraction while dealing with a global pandemic that has caused the worst annual economic performance in three centuries.
Businesses have also become more wary of Brexit since the outbreak of COVID-19. In May, two in every five businesses said they were concerned about Brexit in light of the pandemic, a number that has since risen to half of all respondents in the past seven months.
GS1 UK chief executive Anne Godfrey said: “This report shows us a very concerned small-business nation – one that feels unprepared and frustrated with a government that has had four and a half years to make ready for this eventuality.
“Planning for Brexit would have been a momentous enough undertaking in isolation, but adding a global pandemic into the mix has put SMEs under serious pressure. Despite wider uncertainty for the British business community, SMEs can be reassured that amid the upheaval, their identifiers will work as seamlessly as before.”
With the end of the Brexit transition rapidly approaching and no word from the Government to confirm if a deal will be made with the EU over future trade with the single market, members of the food and drink community have continued to raise concerns over the future of exports.
Members of the meat industry have warned that the lack of official veterinarians would see exports drop up to 75%, while uncertainties remain around the future of trade for organic food once official recognition by the EU ends in 2021.
Meanwhile, a total of 39 trade body representatives have warned many of Great Britain’s food firms plan to stop trading with Northern Ireland (NI) due to the cost of rules and regulations post-Brexit.